By Jacob Perkins
In what began as a discussion on helping the environment during Dr. Seuss Week, Amanda White’s 1st-grade class at Straub Elementary (Mason County) came up with the idea of collecting shoes to donate to Haiti.
“We read the story ‘The Lorax’ and we were talking about different ways that you could help the environment and recycling came up as one of the ways.” White said. “I mentioned to the kids that my friend does mission trips to Haiti. I explained to the kids how they collect shoes and they take these shoes to Haiti and disperse them to the families there.”
This interested the students so much that they wanted to learn more about Haiti. In the reading unit that students were in they were learning about comparing and contrasting. The students compared and contrasted themselves to the children of Haiti.
White asked the students if they would like to be a part of collecting shoes to help the people of Haiti.
“Of course they ran with it.” White said.
On a Friday, the class of 21 students came up with a goal of collecting 25 pairs of shoes. By the following Monday, the students had collected 41.
“We reset the goal and they were going for 100 pairs of shoes. Well, by that Friday they had 100 pairs of shoes.” White said.
Currently, White’s class is at 188 pairs and their new goal is 200.
“We’re collecting the shoes until our spring break, which is March 29. We just keep adjusting as we go on. I would love to see them get to 500 pairs of shoes.” White said.
White said her students have gained perspective throughout this process.
“They’re gaining those life-building skills that are going to help them succeed in the future. They’re seeing that even the smallest person can make a big difference in somebody else’s life.
“They knew that at 25 pairs of shoes they would get a reward,” said White, who added that her students’ reward is an ice cream party. “The most amazing thing to me is, they have not asked for a bigger reward past 25 shoes. Their excitement is knowing that someone else is getting something.” White said.
As for White, she thought she learned all that she could learn through teaching, but her students have taught her throughout this process.
“I think a lot of times we forget that love conquers all and these little kids have shown the utmost love for people that they haven’t even met,” she said. “As adults, we forget that. We forget to love people that we don’t know. We forget to have compassion for people that we’ve never met.
“That’s what I’ve seen these kids do. They’re not doing it for any other reason but to do it at this point.” White said.
For those interested in donating shoes for the class, White said that you can drop them off at the school’s front office and any type of gently used shoe is fine.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Can it be house slippers?’ Sure. Flip-flops? Absolutely. Even snow boots can be donated. If they’re (the shoes) not something that can be wearable in Haiti because the climate is warmer, they can be used for parts. A pair of fuzzy boots can be turned into something else,” White said.
The shoes will be taken to Haiti by a friend of White’s during a mission trip in April.